The uncomfortable feeling that something is lodged in our eyes is often called a foreign body sensation. Interestingly, it can happen even when there is nothing in our eyes. But just the feeling can sometimes lead to irritation and pain. So it is necessary to take care of it.
There are many reasons for the foreign body sensation without anything foreign in our eyes! According to the National Eye Institute of the US, dry eye syndrome is one of the top causes. This happens when our eyes are not making enough tears to keep the surface moist.
According to Dr Vivian Shibayama of UCLA Medical Center, this can cause a rough and sand-like sensation in the eye. It can be managed simply by using artificial tears or lubricating eye drops.
Another cause of foreign body sensation could be a small, painless lump called a chalazion in the eyelids. A stye, which is an infection of the eyelash or sweat glands, can result in the same feeling. These problems usually go away automatically within a week.
In the meantime, it may be beneficial to periodically apply pressure to the affected area with a warm cloth (warm compress). If they do not heal in a week, consultation with an ophthalmologist may be necessary.
Pterygium, a benign growth on the conjunctiva, is sometimes responsible for a foreign body sensation. If there are no symptoms, then they could be left alone. However, it is better to check with an ophthalmologist if there are symptoms.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelid, is another common cause of making us feel like something is in our eyes. The affected area should be regularly cleaned and treated with a warm compress.
However, if it persists for more than a week or the symptoms become severe, it is best to seek professional help.
We certainly should remember pink eye or conjunctivitis. This is when the conjunctiva gets infected or irritated by an allergy. Conjunctivitis often gives rise to a foreign body sensation. The treatment usually consists of maintaining personal hygiene and regularly applying a cloth soaked in cold water to the eyes (cold compress). Again, if the symptoms persist for a week or so, then it is better to talk to an ophthalmologist.
Sometimes the cornea is injured, which can make it feel like something is in the eye. If the injury is minor, it will heal in a few days, and the feeling will go away. A cold compress several times a day can provide relief during this time. If the injury is serious, it must be immediately treated by a physician.
Sometimes, an open sore on the cornea, known as a corneal ulcer, could cause this uncomfortable feeling. An ophthalmologist should treat this as there is a high risk of permanent damage, even blindness. So if someone has a corneal ulcer, he/she must immediately reach out to the doctor.
Sometimes, the sensation is actually due to something in our eyes. In that case, we can initially dislodge it on our own.
First and foremost, we must refrain from rubbing our eyes. Then we should try to blink repeatedly, which can increase tear production and help flush the object. We can try flushing with water or saline solution if it does not work.
Mayo Clinic suggests we should use a clean drinking glass containing the solution, touch the rim underneath the eye socket and pour the content over the eye.
Or we could get into the shower and then direct the water coming down from our forehead into our open eyes.
However, if all attempts fail, we should contact a physician. It is advisable to keep the affected eye shut until the foreign body is removed.